COLUMN-Predictable Test squad
Roughly one month after the unforgettable aborted tour to India by the West Indies One Day International side under the captaincy of Dwayne Bravo, it is refreshing to learn that the selection panel is bent on picking “the best and strongest team available”.
That was the word from chairman of selectors Clive Lloyd following the announcement on Wednesday of the 15-man squad for the three-match Test series against South Africa in South Africa in December and early January.
Those who were spreading propaganda about major changes and captains being replaced would probably be disappointed as they were seemingly bent on sensational stories, while doing so with unbelievable pride.
Hopefully, they have settled down and reflected on their ways since the squad was announced. No one has been victimised and eight of the players who were in the ODI squad to India are in the Test side.
And one expects that the squad for the three-match Twenty20 International and five-match ODI series, which follow against the South Africans would also reflect consistency in terms of captaincy and those deemed as specialists in those formats.
It would, however, be more pertinent at this stage to pay attention to what Lloyd said in relation to the selection of the Test squad.
“Of course at all times the selection panel aims to select the best and strongest team available. We look forward to this squad giving a good account of themselves for the three Tests in South Africa,” the outstanding former West Indies captain remarked.
Again captained by wicket-keeper/batsman Denesh Ramdin, the squad shows a mixture of experience and youth in what is sure to be a very testing series against the world’s top team.
Basically, the selectors have stuck with the nucleus of the team, which swept the two-Test series against Bangladesh in the Caribbean in September.
Veteran Chris Gayle, Kraigg Brathwaite and Leon Johnson are the openers with Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Jermaine Blackwood as the middle order batsmen, along with Ramdin.
Samuels, who was dropped for the series against Bangladesh, earns a recall in place of Kirk Edwards, who failed in that series.
The fast bowling comprises Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder and left-armer Sheldon Cottrell, with one specialist spinner in left-armer Sulieman Benn.
Chadwick Walton, the reserve wicket-keeper/batsman, completes the squad.
While support for Benn in the spin department will come from Samuels with his off-breaks, one has to, however, question the thinking of the selectors in not including another specialist off-spinner.
With Sunil Narine still needing to have his bowling action sorted out, either Shane Shillingford or Ashley Nurse would have been next in line.
Nurse could very well be cursing his luck. After all, he had been included in the Test squad for the first time for the series against India and we can only speculate on what could have been had it not been abandoned.
At least he knows that he is in the minds of the selectors and he should be inspired to show his mettle in the regional first-class championship, called the Professional Cricket League (PCL), which started today.
Lloyd seems to be sweet on Cottrell, whom he describes as “good prospect”. Cottrell is big and strong and has played only one Test but with left-armers being a rarity, the thinking of the selectors is understandable.
There was much fuss about contracts and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has given a deadline of next Tuesday, November 18, for them to be signed and returned. And based on what we are hearing, that will not be a problem with the players.
So much has been said since the aborted tour to India on October 17 that the time has come for all and sundry to settle down and focus on the game. It will not be easy but West Indies cricket is so dear to our hearts that we can only hope and pray that things go smoothly from here on.
But talking about things going smoothly, the start of the PCL was not what ardent fans would have wanted from a commentary perspective.
Despite “live” video streaming and updated scorecards provided by the WICB, it is tough to sit in front of a computer for six hours to follow a match on a daily basis.
Nothing beats ball-by-ball radio commentaries and you do feel sorry for those who want to hear what is going on, especially the elderly. Based on the number of calls and text messages I got this morning, including a couple former international players, I fully understand the hurt they feel at not being able to hear ball-by-ball commentaries.
It is fine to have a professional set-up to help the cause of players financially but at the same time, the players want to know that the fans are following their fortunes closely.
In recent years, there has been a marked decline in stations throughout the region carrying ball-by-ball commentaries. A lack of sponsorship is usually the reason given for the inability to provide such service, leaving one to wonder how much effort is truly made to ensure that there are commentaries.
Perhaps the time has come for the WICB to sit down with the relevant parties and seek to have the situation rectified. It does feel very empty to have first-class cricket being played and not being able to hear a single ball of commentaries.
Locally, the attention turns to the quarter-finals of the Sagicor General Super Cup Championship on Sunday.
Matches: Republic Bank St Catherine vs Wildey at Bayfield; Sagicor Life UWI vs ESA Field Pickwick at 3Ws Oval; CGI Maple vs Premix & Precast Yorkshire at Trents; ICBL Empire vs LIME at Bank Hall.
The semi-finals are slated for November 29 with the final on December 7.
There should be a lot to look forward to regionally and internationally over the next few months.
(Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights. Email: Keithfholder@gmail.com.)